July 18, 2008 / 8:40 AM / 11 years ago

Sri Lanka jets destroy 2 rebel boats, fighting kills 25

COLOMBO, July 18 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan fighter jets destroyed two Tamil Tiger boats and bombed a rebel heavy-weapon deployment site in the country’s north east on Friday, the air force said, adding that day-earlier fighting had killed 20 Tigers and five soldiers.

Friday’s attack follows the military’s claim it had dealt a “fatal blow” to the Tamil Tiger rebels, with the Wednesday capture of the northwestern town of Vidattaltivu, the main base of the Tigers’ sea wing and their logistics hub for the region.

Sri Lanka’s government is pursuing a strategy to gradually retake the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) northern stronghold and win the 25-year civil war amidst an almost daily barrage of land, sea and air attacks in northern rebel-held territories.

“We took two targets, One was a heavy weapon deployment site,” said air force spokesman Janaka Nanayakkara. He said two large logistic boats were destroyed and a third was damaged in Friday’s attack.

Fighting is now concentrated in the north after the Sri Lankan army, which has vowed to finish off the Tigers this year, drove the rebels out of their eastern enclave in 2007.

The Tigers, fighting for an independent state in north and east Sri Lanka for ethnic Tamils, a minority in the predominantly Sinhalese country, were not immediately available for comment.

Analysts say the military has the upper hand in the latest phase of the long-running war given superior air power, strength of numbers and swathes of terrain captured in the island’s east.

The Tigers regularly retaliate with suicide attacks, increasingly targeting civilians, experts and the military say, deterring tourists and worrying investors in the $27 billion economy. (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Valerie Lee)

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